Atheist in Kenya supports controversial Reproductive Health Bill 2019

Atheists in Kenya (AIK) president Harrison Mumia during a past interview. [File, Standard]

 Atheist in Kenya Society has come out strongly in support of the reproductive health bill 2019 sponsored by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika.

In a statement sent to Standard digital, the Atheist society termed the Bill as “progressive” saying it will enable women to make informed decisions about whether and when they can have children and also reduce unintended pregnancies including teenage pregnancies in Kenya.

“We believe that this Bill will increase educational and economic opportunities for women and lead to healthier families and communities,” read the statement.

The Atheist Society also called out both the Catholic Church and Muslim leadership for standing in the way of a Bill the society says will also give women facing difficulties conceiving children naturally a chance to get children through a surrogate(assisted) reproduction.

“It is shameful that the Catholic Church and the Muslim leaders have objected to passing of the Bill. We urge senators and MPs to pass this Bill,” read the statement.

Catholic bishops zealously wrote letters to Catholic members of Parliament expressing their opposition to the Bill and citing its implications. The Bishops speared the Bill on grounds of “our faith and African cultural background”.

“As Bishops, we respond to our belief that regards abortion as the intentional killing of human life,” they say in the letter signed by Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Chairman, Archbishop Philip Anyolo.

“Many women have died and others injured due to unsafe abortions that could have been prevented through sexuality education, family planning, and the provision of safe, legal induced abortion and care for complications of abortion,” argued the statement by the Atheist Society.

The contentious bill suggests among many things that “a pregnancy may be terminated by a trained health professional where in the opinion of the trained health professional—there is need for emergency treatment; the pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the mother; or there exists a substantial risk that the foetus would suffer from a severe physical or mental abnormality that is incompatible with life outside the womb,” partly reads the Bill.

The bill also suggests that the health professional terminating the pregnancy must receive written consent from the pregnant woman and in case of a pregnant minor, the parents or guardian need to be consulted and determine that the procedure is in the best interest of the minor.

Kenya Christian association has also come out calling for the withdrawal of the bill saying little consultation was done during its formulation.

However, a section of MPs and Civil rights organization have expressed optimism that the time has come to table the controversial topic.

The new debate on the Bill also reflects the extensive tug of war that ensued from the pre-referendum phase of the 2010 constitution on allowing abortion only in a medical emergency.

On the same side as the Atheist Society of Kenya is Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris who has been taking a strong stand on advocating for women to be allowed an abortion at their own will.

Passaris has previously lamented how women in the slums were opting for abortion, leading to deaths that could be avoided and even desertion of infants.

According to a 2012 survey by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, African Population and Health Research Center and IPSAS, about half (49 per cent) of all pregnancies in Kenya were unintended and 41 per cent of unintended pregnancies ended in an abortion. About 460,000 abortions are induced in Kenya every year.